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Howard Morris the Great. . .and finality

It was eight years ago today, almost to the exact minute as I post this message, when my  great father passed away. I’ll never forget that moment. Everything he was, everything he cared for, everything his fans and friends loved, everything we had as friends, everything as father and son, it was all gone. Finality.

Before he died, we spent decades with each other. He would call me numerous times a day. In the years before his passing he even moved just blocks away from my office so we could be closer. He was my rock, my anchor, my buddy. I was his sounding board, and he was mine. We protected each other.
Last week, I was visiting with one of my best friends. He and I grew up together. He mentioned that he was heading out of the country on a trip with his father, for a major event. His father is a well known actor. I’ll leave his name out but you’d know him from television over the years. I said to my friend “become the biggest sponge you can while you can. Once that line is crossed, there’s no going back.”   My friend still has both of his parents, yet he understood my point. As we continued to talk, I flashed back over the years when my father and I would travel to various appearances. He would do shows. I was, for lack of a better term, his tour manager. We really had a blast. Like two kids running loose on an airplane, we played together. These times were great, but for my pop it was more than that, it was also the chance to ignite and let loose his unstoppable talents. This was more fun than anything to him. He was soooo good on stage.
I always thought Ernest T. Bass was a pretty smart guy. Crazy, silly, yes, but smart at his core. Why? Because the lines between Howie Morris and his characters would often blur. This was my pops formula to building solid characters.
Even though we were close and spent a ton of time together, looking back, there was still room for more with him. I would give anything to have another hour or two together. I do get brief moments with him in dreams. Suddenly, he’ll just be there. We’ll talk, or he’ll just smile.
Sometimes it’s as though he never died.
Become a sponge with those you love.
Dad, I’ll always love you.
{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Michelle Mitchell May 21, 2013, 3:41 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to your father. I have Ernest T. Bass on my work laptop as my desktop picture. Younger people often ask me who is that man? I am so thankful I grew up in a time when TAGS was on TV. I continue to watch the show in reruns.

    God bless you and Ernest T. Bass

  • ken sweat May 21, 2013, 4:05 pm

    David: What a great tribute to your dad. It really got me thinking about spending more time with mine(he is 83). Thank you for such an inspiritional message. God bless you and your dad. Ken

    • tony June 6, 2013, 8:29 am

      he was the best

  • David Browning/The Mayberry Deputy May 21, 2013, 7:30 pm


    I feel so fortunate to have known your Dad. Special is the only word I can think of when I think of him. I also was privaledged to see the special bond that you and he had. It is awesome to have a Dad like him but what I saw were two people who really loved and respected one another. Your care and genuine understanding of your Father was a thing of beauty and I thank you for letting so many of us share the special bond that you had.

    Hope to see you again!!

    Your friend,


  • C. R. May 23, 2013, 5:03 pm

    I agree, people should spend as much time with their parents as they can because you never know when they will be taken away from you. I lost both of my parents at an early age and I miss them so much, especially my mother. We were very close. Once they are gone, you can’t get them back so let them know you love them while they are still among the living and treasure every moment! Life is very fleeting! Your dad was one of a kind, a very talented and funny man. May he rest in peace.

  • William P June 5, 2013, 9:23 pm

    I lost my father 7 years ago. A great man, a wise man, and a man who gave everything he had of himself to others. You’re bringing back my father as you talk about yours. Parents are a blessing, a gift and as such we need to treasure them.

    I miss my dad every day, but also talk to him daily. I ask for advice, and if I listen really hard, really carefully…I can hear him in my heart. He always knew the answers….

  • EFolsom July 31, 2013, 11:06 am

    Just wanted to say I loved your tribute. People always think of how their children’s childhood goes so fast. Yet, we should always enjoy our parents for as long as we have them as well. I lost my father when I was only 23 and not a day goes past that I do not think of him even after 20+ years.

    Earnest T. Bass will live forever as well. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Randy Helms August 5, 2013, 2:10 pm

    My Dad is 92, my Mom is 88, and they just celebrated their 70th Wedding Anniversary. They got married the day before he shipped out for war to England in 1942. He went M.I.A. (missing in action) for almost a year. His B17 bomber, “Pulsatin’ Polly”, had been shot down over Bremen, Germany and he was taken prisoner-of-war (P.O.W.). He spent 19 months there until the end of the war. My parents live with me now and that’s the best gift I have ever gotten! Our family is quite unique these days. On both sides of my family (Aunts; Uncles), there are no divorces, no “this person doesn’t talk to that person”, and there was never any alcohol at family reunions. Dad is still in very good health. He drives wherever he wants to go, he walks with no devices, and he has a great memory of things that happened 80+ years ago. His stories about his time in Stalag 17 are so vivid you could picture it all if you closed your eyes, or you could almost smell the terrible food and coffee. I try to spend as much time as I can with them because I know what will inevitably happen. We were so blessed to have had such great parents who loved and cared for us! My older sister and brother have long since married, had children, and have been away from home for many years now. We do, however, see them regularly. I am 55 now and I never married. I became disabled and could no longer work in 1987 so I stayed home to take care of them. It was the best decision I ever made and I have never regretted it! The times we have spent together are priceless and I have seen a side of my parents that most people never see. I love them more and more every day and it will be the hardest thing I’ll ever do when I say goodbye to them until we are, again, together in Heaven. God bless you and yours. ~~ Soul to Souls, Randy Helms ~~

  • Welford M. Sims August 13, 2013, 10:47 am

    In 2003, Howard noticed the cap I was wearing had NavCommU43 Midway Is. on it. He then told me he had also been stationed on Midway Is. in 1943. I had planned to take him an album of Midway Photos in 2004, but he never made it back.
    Next year, the Veterans and Former Residents of Midway Island are having a reunion in Glasgow KY, over 200 already signed up to attend, and one of the precious items I will be taking to the reunion is an 8 x 10 autographed photo of Howard, as Ernest T Bass, with a note attached telling everyone he was also a veteran of Midway Island.
    David, we enjoyed seeing you at Mayberry Days as Ernest 2, and hope you will return again! So much fun, and I am sure the reunion next year will also be a ton of fun and wish he had been around to attend as a proud Marine!!
    Thank you for sharing him with us for so many years!

  • Mark Plummer September 9, 2013, 8:53 am

    He is the only person that I think EVERYONE that either new or watched him has nothing but good things to say. Sounds by your letter that EVERYONE is rite! Thank you Howard.

  • Wayne S. November 30, 2013, 3:51 pm

    Just watched an episode of Wanted Dead or Alive with Steve McQueen…a show I never thought of as comedic entertainment…but this was a very special episode with the great Howard Morris. I wanted to find out more, which led me to this site (I am so glad I found it).
    I have always enjoyed watching TAGS and the episodes with Earnest T…he was a wonderful entertainer and showman.
    David, your tribute hits home, it not only expresses your affection and admiration you have for your dad, but enlightens everyone reading, the importance of enjoying the limited time we have with those we hold dear to our hearts. And to absorb ALL we can WHILE we can, and really cherish the little time we have together.
    Thank You

    • Welford M. Sims December 1, 2013, 6:24 am

      Talked to Howard at Mayberry Days, 2003. He saw the cap I was wearing,
      “NavComU43 Midway Is.” and told me he had also served on Midway, in 1943. We instantly had a connection! I was going to make him an album of Midway photos and take to him the next year, but in the meantime he got sick and didn’t come back in ’04 and passed away in ’05. It was such a pleasure to meet and talk with such a great talent! We miss him greatly and I miss that personal connection! David, hope you can make it back to Mayberry soon! and thank you for sharing your father with us for so many years!

  • Wanda December 16, 2013, 10:36 pm

    Hi David,

    I just stumbled upon your website tonight. Earlier I was watching your Dad’s first episode on The Andy Griffith Show. I loved Ernest T. Bass and the free spirit he brought to the show. He was so funny , so original. I wish he had been a regular.

    I know I’m getting old but I seem to remember seeing a clip of him singing years ago (not as Ernest T ). It was beautifully done. I think it was a ballad or something. All I remember is being surprised that he had such an amazing singing voice. I wonder if I’m thinking of someone else because I can’t find that clip now.

    Anyway, Ernest T was a joy to watch. It is wonderful that you were close and have such special memories. It looks like he was as good a father as he was an actor.

    Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to you and yours.

    • Welford M. Sims December 17, 2013, 8:23 am

      Howard sang in the movie Finnian’s Rainbow and did a reprise of his song at Mayberry Days. I don’t know the proper title but the song went “When I’m not with the girl I love, I love the girl I’m near.”
      I found that LP album at a thrift shop with Howard, Jean Carson, and one other whose name slips past…and donated it to the Surry Arts Silent Auction at Mayberry Days and it seems it brought $17. I paid $1 for it!! Someone got a real treasure!
      I really regret not being able to get an album of Midway Island photos for him, but he got sick the next year and never made it back. What a talent!! Fantastic mind!
      We miss you, Howard!!

  • Wanda December 17, 2013, 10:53 am


    I found the song you spoke of, it’s title is “When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love”. There
    was also one called “Something Sort of Grandish”.

    Here’s more..

    1960 Broadway Revival
    Theatre: 46th Street Theatre
    Opening Night: May 23, 1960
    Original Cast: Anita Alvarez, Carol Brice, Jeannie Carson, Biff McGuire, Howard Morris, Bobby Howes, Patty Austin, Sorrell Booke, Eddie Bruce, Edgar Daniels, Michael Darden, Arthur Garrison, Tom McElhany, Jim McMillan, Joe Ross
    Director and Choreographer: Herbert Ross
    Musical Director: Max Meth
    Orchestrations: Robert Russell Bennett and Don Walker
    Scenic and Lighting Design: Howard Bay
    Costume Design: Stanley Simmons


    • Welford M. Sims December 17, 2013, 1:01 pm

      Sorrell Booke….Yes!! Boss Hogg!! How could I forget him!!
      Thanks for the reminder…

  • Tara December 30, 2013, 1:44 pm

    Dear Mr. Morris, I feel that I learned from your father too. Of course, through watching his acting and listening to his dialogue, I learned great comedic timing, writing.
    He was wonderful and a gift to a lot of people.
    Thank you for keeping his memory alive, Tara

  • Catrina Hare December 30, 2013, 7:37 pm

    Just watched an episode for the umpteenth time that featured Earnest T. One would have to had exceptional talent to make such a lasting impression from only 5 episodes.
    Howard had that kind of talent. I went to IMDB and looked up Howard and was blown away at the amazing amount of work he did! Just incredible! David, your dad sounded like a real treasure and our world was made so much better because of him. Even now years after his passing, he is making us laugh 🙂 Thank You!!

  • Judy Henderson January 10, 2014, 11:02 am

    Ernest T. ( and Howard Morris) are timeless. I am the same age as Ron Howard, so I gew up loving “Andy Griffith Show”. My adult children were exposed to it via reruns and now my two adopted sons (ages 5 and 7) are regular viewers.
    A couple of months ago someone broken out one of our offices windows with a brick. My 5 year old was at the office with me yesterday. He picked up the brick which we kept as a “souvenir”. Carson looked at it and stated that he knew who broke the window. With all seriousness he said, “Ernest T. Bass”.
    RIP, Howard Morris. We love you.

  • Angela Venable March 17, 2014, 11:31 pm

    My sister and mother always tell me I do a great Ernest T. Bass impression, although I am a grown woman. Actually, I met you at a play at the Andy Griffith playhouse years ago in 2007 I think. I was working for a dentist in Bristol, TN, and met David Browning. He let me meet people backstage. I was like “Thelma Lou!” I was very happy to meet some of the people I watched so many times. I really have an admiration for Howard Morris as such a great comic! I have only recently realized his voice work for cartoons and commercials. He is very much admired in my family.

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